Tribute as Mustapha Akanbi dies @85

Mustapha Akanbi
A former President of the Court of Appeal, Mustapha Akanbi. [Photo credit: Official Facebook page of Mustapha Akanbi Foundation]

In the early hours of Sunday, a former President of the Court of Appeal and pioneer chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Mustapha Akanbi, died.

He died in his hometown of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

Aged 85, Mr Akanbi was until his death a respected opinion moulder, anti-corruotion crusader and elder statesman.

Mr Akanbi served as head of the ICPC he between 2000 and 2005 during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. He was widely reputed to be firm and incorruptible.

Early Life

Named Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi, he was born on September 11, 1932 in Accra, Ghana, where he worked as an executive officer in the Ghana Civil Service, apart from being an active member of the trade union.

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Upon returning to Nigeria, Mr Akanbi earned scholarship to study law at the Institute of Administration, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He subsequently pursued legal studies in the United Kingdom and was called to the English Bar in 1963.

A year later in January 1964, he was called to the Nigerian Bar. In 1968, he became a Senior State Counsel after he joined the Ministry of Justice.

After setting up private practice in Kano, he was appointed a judge of the Federal Revenue Court in 1974 and in January 1977 he was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench. In 1992 he became President of the Nigerian Court of Appeal and retired in 1999.

ICPC appointment

A year into the administration of Mr Obasanjo, he appointed Mr Akanbi pioneer chairman of the then newly established Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

But the late jurist had a rough time at the anti-graft agency, due to the nature of the act establishing it. As of July 2005, the ICPC had charged 85 people but secured only two corruption-related convictions.

Mr Akanbi in his reaction publicly questioned the role of the government in undermining the agency at the time.

He also expressed worry about the law that hindered the agency from investigating corrupt practices dating before the creation of the ICPC.

He subsequently retired in 2005 on completion of the first term of office and in 2006, he established the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation in Ilorin, Kwara State.

The organisation was founded to focus on strengthening civil society groups, governmental agencies and private businesses to engender transparency and accountability.

In 2013, Mr Akanbi’s wife, Musatu Akanbi, died at an Indian hospital after a brief illness. She was aged 68.

Nigerians mourn

Meanwhile Nigerians have continued to express grief over the death of the late jurist.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, in his condolence message on Sunday described the death as “a personal loss.”

Mr Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, described the late Mr Akanbi as an indefatigable, honest and principled jurist who upheld the fine ethics of the judicial process till he breathed his last.

“I am sad that Baba (Akanbi) has left us. He was fearless, courageous and spoke truth to power during his lifetime,” he said.

“He was like a father to me. His death is a personal loss. Kwara State will miss him. Nigeria will miss him.”

The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, described the late elder statesman as a courageous judge who fought corruption to a standstill.

He said, “Justice Mustapha Akanbi was a courageous judge who used the bench to dispense justice without fear or favour and rose to be President of Court of Appeal.

“As chairman of ICPC, he fought corruption to a standstill for which we are grateful to him. His death is clearly an irredeemable loss to the country.”

Ali Ahmad, speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, said “late Justice Mustapha Akanbi was a source of inspiration to every Muslim, the Bar and the Bench.”

Mr Ahmad, in a statement by his media aide Shuaib Abdulkadir, said the late judge was a big source of inspiration to baby lawyers in the legal profession and to a lot more people in community service.

“He was very religious. We can only pray Allah to forgive his shortcomings and grant him Al-janah Firdaos”, he said.

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